Travelling with Toddlers can be a wonderful new experience for your child. The memories of a special adventure might shape their childhood forever. But just as easily, it could turn out to be your worst nightmare, where you wish you hadn't bothered! I still have bad memories from when we took a flight to Crete with our then 2 year old, who screamed the plane down and became like a crazy person for 3 long hours. It started with the flight attendant barking that he couldn’t sit on our knee because he was too big for the provided child seat belt (by 1 month). A struggle ensued, to detach him from our knee and force him into his own seat for take-off. It really wasn’t necessary, but this, unfortunately, set the mood for the rest of the journey. I swapped my gin and tonic idea for a bottle of water, and settled in for the ride. Although we felt we were so prepared for that flight, nothing had quite prepared us for that outcome. Fact is - some toddlers feel out of their comfort zone when stuck on an aeroplane for several hours, it's just in their genes. What made our normally calm toddler turn into a nightmare all of a sudden? Was it because his environment was so unfamiliar, that he felt out of control? Or was it simply because his ears were hurting so much that he couldn't communicate this to us? Several flights later, here are our top tips for surviving a flight with a spirited toddler, and hopefully coming out in one piece:
- Practice makes perfect. Buy a sample seatbelt on ebay and role play being in an aeroplane seat with your child. Make your child watch a youtube video of a jumbo jet taking off and show them a safety video so they understand what happens on board. The more they get used to flying, the less they will be in shock when presented with their new and unfamiliar and noisy environment.
- Pack some sugar free lollies for ascent and descent. Many children develop ear pain when taking off or landing, due to unequal pressure that develop on either side of the eardrum as the plane changes height. Sucking a lollipop and blowing against a closed nose and mouth will push air into the middle ear to equalise the pressure and ease the pain.
- Pack one of your child’s favourite teddy's and a cosy soft travel blanket. Your child will be comforted by cuddling something familiar. Especially when you are hoping they might drift off. You want to create a relaxed and cosy environment so that they feel at home whilst they are on the move. Don't forget to pack a change of clothes (for them, and for you).
- Scrap your usual routine and let them sleep when they want to. Don’t try to force your child to go to sleep if you know this is going to be difficult. Truth is, if you give them some independence and make them feel like they are in control, they are more likely to drift off unaided, instead of trying every trick in the book to get them off to sleep when life is far too exciting to be sleeping anyway!
- Avoid sweets. Resist the temptation to keep them going on a long journey by feeding them sweets or junk at any available opportunity. Pack a mixture of savoury snacks like flapjacks, vegetable crisps, skinny popcorn and fruit bars – anything to avoid arriving in a strange country with children in the middle of a sugar high. Don't give too much liquid until they are on the plane, unless you want to spend every minute running from the queue in a panic! Finally, lets hope it doesn't lead to this!